Between The Lines

The stories behind this issue’s stories.

Branded for Life

I’m talking to Tom Peters about his story, “The Brand You Survival Kit” (page 95), and I’m trying not to sound starstruck. But I was dying to tell him just how much his ideas, particularly about Brand You, had influenced my career. I can remember him delivering a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California that aired on C-SPAN on a Saturday night (wow, I hit the nerd trifecta). Somehow I had the restraint not to tell Peters that. But about 20 minutes into our conversation, I broke down and was babbling on about how, in the mid-1990s, I had bailed out on being a lawyer after realizing that I hated it, and pursued something I loved–journalism.


Peters graciously listened to my rap and then excitedly started using my life story to illustrate the points he makes in the article. I was floored. Sometimes it’s all too easy to hear or read something and let it wash over you or be skeptical about it. But when it’s personal, it clicks. To me, that’s Peters’s genius. I have friends who think Brand You–extending the concept of branding to people–is a sign of the apocalypse. I only wish I could pass on Peters’s phone number and see how quickly they’d change their minds. -David Lidsky

A Nice Personality

Whenever I encounter a company that uses personality tests to better match employees with their roles, I try each system to understand how it works. When I wrote about Beaverton, Oregon-based Unicru’s artificial-intelligence solution (“True or False: You’re Hiring the Right People,” February 2002), I discovered I would make a decent assistant manager at Blockbuster. In April, while exploring how the Myers-Briggs test helps Dow Chemical find more inventors (“Are You a Polyolefin Optimizer?”), I found out I was an ENFP–more of a communicator than a creator of cool new stuff.

Rackspace, in its quest to deliver the ultimate customer experience, has embraced the StrengthsFinder test from the Gallup International Research & Education Center (“Cuckoo for Customers,” page 86). They’ve given out 750 copies of the test in order to test all 388 current employees and every prospective hire (150 were hired using the system). Apparently, star technicians have the “restorative” strength (a desire to make things right for the customer), star managers have the “command” strength (a natural affinity for leadership), and star salespeople have the “competition” and “achiever” strengths (both contribute to drive and performance). With competition, achiever, and command among my top five, I’m apparently better suited to running a sales team than being a business journalist! Like my mom always said, it doesn’t hurt to have something to fall back on. -Alison Overholt

Dining With George

George Foreman and I have a lot in common (“60 Seconds With…,” page 37). Sure, I have a bit more hair, but otherwise we’re alike. We both struggle to find nice clothes for our sons, we both lust after a good night’s sleep, and we both worry about keeping our figures trim. At lunch at the posh Fives restaurant in Manhattan’s Peninsula Hotel, we both had fish: I chose the opah (who knew Oprah had a fish?), he a modest piece of salmon. We both virtuously skipped the creme brulee and ordered berries. Foreman, who’s aiming to lose 40 pounds in order to get back in the ring, says he’s counting on his eponymous grill to help him not only shed weight but also keep the grim reaper at bay. “I told my wife, ‘You know why women live longer than men?’ ” he whispers conspiratorially. “Because we eat leftovers!” And then, because we’re soul mates, he shares the secret exercise that’s the key to his weight-loss program: He pushes his plate away. -Linda Tischler